Coal Deathwatch: Compromises and Kowtows in Kansas, Michigan, Washington

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It’s been a mixed bag for coal this week, with some companies throwing in the towel on planned coal power plants and others slipping coal plants by regulators with compromises. In a time when Congress is mulling not whether, but how to implement a cap-and-trade system and national renewable portfolio standard as part of the current energy bill, a mixed bag is about as good as it gets for heavily polluting incumbent energy players. As the Economist noted on Thursday, nearly 100 planned coal power plants have been canceled since 2001, at least nine of them — representing some 6.7 GW of power — in the last four months. Here’s a look at how the chips have fallen since we last updated our Coal Power Death Watch Map:

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The state Senate in Kansas approved on Friday an energy bill that will allow Sunflower Electric Corp. to go ahead with a planned 895 MW coal plant near Holcomb, Kan. The company had originally proposed two plants and 1.4 GW, but encountered resistance from former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now the Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Obama administration. As Kansas’ Wichita Eagle reports, the new bill strips the state Health and Environment department of authority to enact limits on emissions that are tougher than federal rules — a power previously used to block the Holcomb plant.

LS Power suspended a proposal last week to build a 750 MW coal plant in Midland, Mich., after spending about $4 million on the project. According to a Reuters report, the company explained the move like so: “Last year’s energy legislation in Michigan restricting the available customers for the project, combined with current economic conditions and regulatory uncertainties, has deferred the immediate need for base load energy from the (Mid-Michigan) project.”

Energy Northwest announced on Thursday that it plans to withdraw a permit application for a 680 MW coal plant in Washington’s Port of Kalama, a site where it had plans for another plant rejected in 2007. As the local Daily News reports, the company had pledged after that rejection to gasify coal or use the petroleum byproduct petcoke in order to comply with emissions standards, but found that costs would balloon to $2.5 billion, up from $1 billion estimated for the dirtier technology. Energy Northwest may now try to build a natural gas-fired plant at the site.

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